Thursday, 3 September 2009

Au revoir salonnière

Pierre Balmain and Ruth Ford, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, November 1947

Ruth Elizabeth Ford (1911-2009)

When Cecil Beaton's biographer Hugo Vickers visited her at the Dakota in 1981, she detained him at the door of her apartment. "Now, there's something I must tell you which embarrasses me very much," she said. "Cecil once described me as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world." She then slipped back into her apartment and the door closed behind her.

Taken from her obituary as it appeared in The Daily Telegraph on August 17, 2009.

Portrait of Charles Henri Ford in Poppy Field painted by his lover Pavel Tchelitchew, 1933

The Brookhaven, Mississippi native had originally followed her brother, the artist Charles Henri Ford, to New York in the 1930s.

After I saw New York, what the hell was I going to do in Mississippi? Marry a shoe salesman?, she once asked.

Aside from her numerous modeling, film, and stage credits Ruth Ford was better known for the salon that she created in her apartment in the famed Dakota building. It was here that she entertained literary greats such as Faulkner, Albee, and McNally to name but a few. It was also here that a chance meeting between Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents would lead to their collaboration with Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. And finally, it was here she would become a recluse - speaking to friends only by telephone. It's easier this way, she said. I don't bother to dress.

Trailer for Adventure in Iraq (1943) with Ruth Ford as Tess Torrence

Now playing: The Beauty Room - Shades of Yesterday
via FoxyTunes


Mrs. Blandings said...

I wonder if she ever discovered email? Perfect for the recluse as you don't have to have a cheery tone.

Pigtown-Design said...

I just started Hugh Vickers' book about Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece. Looks like it will be very good. I will have to hunt up his book on CB next.


Thombeau said...

Hey there! I sent you an email, but for some reason it was bounced back. Just wanted to say how happy I am that HOBAC is up and running again. So happy, in fact, that I put up a banner for you on Fabulon!

little augury said...

HOBAC- this is why I am so grateful you have returned. Multilayer upon layer. The Tchelitchew portrait is so incredible, I can't take my eyes off of it.How many glamorous women have done the same thing in the city-Many I am sure. Beautiful. la

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I had the great pleasure of interviewing her back in the mid 1990s, and remember the Dakota apartment as quite dark and gloomy and full of malevolent shadows and masses of Tchelitchew paintings. She, however, was a sprite, delightful, sassy, full-tilt fun.

Errant Aesthete said...

Perfectly sumptuous! I can't begin to say enough about this woman and this profile. The Dakota! Anything that happened at the famed Dakota was newsworthy in itself, but to add to it the element of the soirees with a guest list that included Isak Dinesen, Tennessee Williams, Jackie Onassis, Edward Albee, etc. is thrilling.

And to have modeled for Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Carl Van Vechten! Was there anyone she didn't know?

The commentary, too, from various celebrated types, Leo Lerman, Orson Welles and a friend Ned Rorem, who thought she projected "in the parlour better than over the footlights," was just wonderful. Thank you.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

And certainly impressed the population hereabouts... I'm really going to have to tune into TCM more often. Thanks for the introduction to Ms. Ford, and another shot of M. Balmain. (Quite a dress he's pinning up there.)

I think the idea of recluse is sounding better and better, too. Of course, I'm phone phobic. And then there's the internet. Can one be a recluse and social networker?

Glad to see you're back in fine form HOBAC.